Monday, October 5

My Frugal Miser - September Expenses: $8,273

I wasn't as gluttonous as the numbers suggest.  Some of my September spending was in the form of gift cards I have yet to use.  MyPoints had promotions with its Swappable site, so I bought quite a few gift cards, affecting the areas of Vacation, Food, Home Repair and Clothing.   Similarly, I bought fuel gift cards to take advantage of Chase Freedom's expiring 5% cash back on fuel offer.   I also purchased a $500 Carnival gift card at Winn-Dixie to earn Fuel Rewards.   I read that you can apply the gift card to your onboard account when you cruise and then cash out the positive balance, so I'm going to give this a whirl.  The only major expense last month was the purchase of our kitchen counter tops, which was nearly $3,000.  

One category to point out is Vacation spending.  Remove the $500 Carnival gift card, and I only spent $540 on vacationing last month.  This includes four round trip flights:  2 to Denver last month, and 2 to Las Vegas later this month.  Frontier and Spirit have had aggressive sales.  We both flew to Denver and back for under $100, and our round trip flights to Las Vegas were just $122 each.

October looks like a more frugal month.  We will work a hospitality job in Chicago during one whole week, and all our expenses are paid for that.  I have enough gas cards to cover all the driving I do this month.

September Expenses:  $8,273

$1,963 Auto ($539 gas, $455 depreciation, $968 Rideshare Car depreciation)
$45 Bank Fees
$100 Clothing
$0 Computer
$144 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$304 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$3,979 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$141 Health and Dental Insurance
$0 Investment Expense
$162 Interest Expense
$0 Medical/Dental
$6 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$124 Uber/Lyft Expenses (excluding fuel and depreciation)
$264 Utilities
$1,040 Vacation and Recreation

September Expenses, Excluding Vacation and Home Repairs:  $4,120

Saturday, October 3

My Frugal Miser - September Income: $11,273

What a month!  My September income was the second best of the year.  All properties are rented, and I even received $500 from the one I am selling, as the buyer took early occupancy.  The closing date for the one I am selling has been delayed and I will receive $500 every two weeks until the house is sold.

Mystery shopping and hospitality work took a hit as rideshare driving for Uber and Lyft became a bigger priority.  However, in October we have some solid hospitality jobs scheduled, which will help this category bounce back.

I received four paychecks from Uber and five from Lyft.  I'm starting to think I can make a decent side income here, but the hours are long and my hourly pay is quite low.

September Income $11,273

$380 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$2,274 Uber
$1,080 Lyft
$7,377 Rental Income
$163 Other Sources

  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I don't include changes in investments from capital gains/losses or dividends.  Most of my investments are in retirement accounts anyway, but this category will grow as I start selling my rental properties and I will probably change this policy.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work. 

Monday, September 28

On Simplifying...

I've been working on a few things to simplify my life.  I've always been a fan of focusing on what you are good at and eliminating or delegating the rest.

Real Estate

The house I listed in March is ALMOST sold.  The buyer's lender has taken a long time to get the loan in order.  Over the weekend the buyer offered to rent my house until she buys it.  I said "yes" right away.  The buyer will pay $500 rent every two weeks, plus I was able to take the utilities out of my name.  The house should close within the next couple of weeks, but it is quite a relief to add a little income while getting my buyer fully "bought-in" on this house.  There's no backing out now as far as I can see.

The plan is to methodically sell all my Birmingham properties.  I'm not in a hurry to do this, but whenever an opportunity presents itself, this is what I will do.


Recently I closed out one of the bank accounts I had opened as a mystery shop.  I also dejunked my wallet by taking out all but a couple of my credit cards.  The ones I am not using are kept in the safe.  There's something refreshing about having a nice thin wallet.


Meeting season is kicking off tomorrow.  I'll be more picky this year about the jobs we do.  There's no reason to drive to Orlando for $100 on a busy Uber day when I could earn twice that here at home.  I've been keeping copious notes on when Uber/Lyft are busy in my area.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be the slowest days for rideshare.  I will continue to refine my work schedule so that I am only working when demand is healthy.  There's nothing worse than giving someone a ride 10 miles away, only to be stuck in that area for half an hour without another fare.


Back at the homestead, we still don't have a kitchen.  The base cabinets aren't level, and it's been a real struggle.  I have to focus on a solution to this ASAP.  As far as recreation goes, we've taken advantage of our Busch Gardens passes twice.  We also planned an impromptu trip to Las Vegas later in October.  I found a cheap airfare combining flights on Spirit and Frontier and decided that getting out of town would be good for us.

Things are headed in a positive direction, and this is a good time in my life.  I'm finally seeing some progress on checking off my to-do list.  

Tuesday, September 22

Why I Decided to Drive for Lyft

I've been driving for Uber going on three months.  At first I didn't think it would work out.  I was frustrated by the low fees and unpaid miles.  Things have begun to improve.  One of the strategies I did to make rideshare driving more profitable was signing up for Lyft, Uber's main competitor.

What Are the Differences Between Uber and Lyft?

From a driver's perspective, Lyft cares more about our success:
  • If you are logged onto Lyft for 30 hours per week, including 10 of the designated "Peak Hours", and accept 90% of the requests that come your way, you receive a 10% bonus on your weekly earnings.  Work 50 hours and the bonus is bumped up to 20%.  Uber has no such incentive.
  • The Lyft app includes a tipping function.  When a ride ends, the customer can easily add a tip to the total fare.  Uber does not offer this, and actively encourages customers to stiff their drivers.
  • On minimum fares, Lyft pays more.  This is because Lyft does not include the Safe Driver Fee in the minimum fare calculation - it is added to it.  On a $4 ride, the driver receives $3.20 with Lyft but only $2.40 with Uber.  That $.80 difference starts to add up when I drive on the beach, where minimum fares are standard.
There are some disadvantages to Lyft:
  • Fewer people use Lyft.  It is only sustainable for me when used in conjunction with the Uber app.
  • The requests that do come in are sometimes really far away.  I've had three requests that were almost a half hour drive to the passenger.  The longest request was 43 minutes away.  This is due to there being fewer drivers using Lyft.

Lyft is a great supplement to Uber income

First off, I was offered a $50 sign-on bonus for joining Lyft.  The only requirement was that I provide 30 rides, which I have already done.  One of the worst things in this industry is downtime between rides, and having two platforms open decreases the time I have to wait for my next request.

The Numbers

In my first week, I only logged onto Lyft over the weekend.  I was logged on for 17 hours and received a net payment of $191.46, which included $22 in tips.  The week of 8/31-9/6 was my first full week on Lyft.  I was logged on for 30 hours and received $292, which inclued $33 in tips and a $28 Power Driver Bonus.  I should note that most of the hours I logged I was not actually driving.  In fact, many of the hours I was sitting at home, running the clock to try to obtain my Power Driver bonus.  I succeeded at that in week 2.  The most difficult part was accepting 90% of my requests, since you are naturally inclined to ignore requests that are too far away.


Now that I've been driving Lyft for a few weeks, I'm finding a lot to like about it, but only as a supplement to Uber.  If Lyft was more popular with riders, I would choose to only do Lyft since it has a tip function and opportunity to earn bonuses.  I'm learning to ignore far-away requests, even though that means forgoing the bonus I would earn if I accepted 90% of the requests.  Sure, a $30 bonus is nice, but not so enticing if it means I am driving more unpaid miles and time to pick up a passenger.